Eat bet­ter us­ing this med­i­ta­tion tech­nique

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - JAE BER­MAN Washington Post

What if all the wis­dom we needed to learn how to eat came from one lit­tle raisin? Nu­tri­tion will for­ever be a hot de­bate, with new sci­ence, and new fads. The value of each macronu­tri­ent (pro­teins, car­bo­hy­drates and fats) is al­ways be­ing dis­puted, and one is of­ten looked at as the hero or en­emy. We play with vi­ta­mins and min­er­als and dis­cuss mir­a­cle sup­ple­ments and su­per­foods. We ex­per­i­ment with smaller, more fre­quent meals or fast­ing.

But what if nu­tri­tion didn’t have any­thing to do with meal tim­ing or magic bul­lets? What if the an­swer had noth­ing to do with food, but rather our aware­ness of how we’re eat­ing? Could be­com­ing more mind­ful be what’s needed to cre­ate the nu­tri­tional change you’re look­ing for?

Most of us eat mind­lessly. We’re rush­ing and stuff­ing food in our mouths as we go from point A to point B. We’re so en­grossed in our con­ver­sa­tion at din­ner (or the Face­book feed on our smart­phone) that we eat the whole plate, barely notic­ing what was on it and how it tasted. Or our minds are fo­cused on the on­go­ing to-do list in our heads.

All this mind­less eat­ing may be hav­ing a neg­a­tive im­pact on our health. Stan­dard por­tions in restau­rants and else­where in the food in­dus­try are grow­ing, and that plate of food may be more than we need. How­ever, if we don’t no­tice our hunger cues or con­sciously de­cide to stop, we’ll prob­a­bly just keep eat­ing.

Mind­ful eat­ing is the prac­tice of just that: be­ing mind­ful when you eat. Pay­ing at­ten­tion to the flavour, smell, tex­ture of food and notic­ing how it makes you feel.

A very com­mon first les­son when learn­ing about mind­ful eat­ing is called the raisin ex­er­cise. It’s so sim­ple yet sur­pris­ingly pow­er­ful.

1. Sit in a com­fort­able chair in a quiet place.

2. Take one raisin and place it in your hand. Imag­ine you have no idea what a raisin is and this is the first time you’re see­ing one.

3. Look at it. No­tice the wrin­kles, the colour, the size, and feel the weight. Re­ally look at it. Hold it up to the light and no­tice how it looks in dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

4. Bring the raisin to your nose and smell it. Close your eyes and smell again.

5. Bring the raisin to your ear and roll it in your fin­gers and lis­ten. Close your eyes and lis­ten.

6. Place the raisin in be­tween your lips, not yet in your mouth. How does it feel? Can you taste any­thing? Is your mouth wa­ter­ing?

7. Place the raisin in your mouth and move it around with­out chew­ing. How does it feel in your mouth? On your tongue, against your cheeks, in your teeth. Is your mouth wa­ter­ing now? Can you taste any­thing? How does it taste?

8. Fi­nally start to chew. What does chew­ing feel like? Can you feel your jaw and/or teeth? How does it taste now? How does it feel? What does a chewed raisin feel like in your mouth?

9. And fi­nally, when ready, swal­low. Take note of how your mouth and throat feel.

Do this ex­er­cise very slowly. It could take five to 15 min­utes.

The first time I led a group through this ex­er­cise, there was a woman who laughed so hard she had to leave the room. I un­der­stand! It seems a bit silly to spend that much time on one raisin.

How­ever, once you go through this ex­er­cise, your re­la­tion­ship with this lit­tle wrinkly fruit feels very dif­fer­ent. Many no­tice the raisin’s pow­er­ful taste. Think of how easy it is to mind­lessly in­hale a whole box of raisins. Maybe you only need one to sat­isfy a sweet tooth. It also can re­ally open your eyes to how fast we eat and how un­aware we are of what we eat. If you could take this much ef­fort on a raisin, imag­ine a plate of food.

Mind­ful eat­ing is a phe­nom­e­nal tool that you can use through­out your day to man­age por­tions, pay at­ten­tion to choices and just slow down a bit.

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